Monday, March 26, 2012

On the Feast of the Annunciation

I think that hanging anything from the ceiling is a pretty mod way to decorate. We have a chandelier  over the table—actually not quite over the table. More in the walking path of the six foot five man who  bumbles in the dark between the front door and the coat rack.  

The chandelier was here when we bought the house. It's sort of girly and uncool, but it earns its keep by hanging paper snowflakes, twigs, branches, etc.. 

For the Feast of the Annunciation I made a little mobile for the boys to look at while we learn the next part of the Angelus. 

(The Angelus is a prayer based on the angel's greeting to Mary, and celebrates the amazing event of the Word becoming flesh. We're learning it in parts so as not to be overwhelmed..)

I totally intended to involve the boys in this art project, but I didn't end up pulling out the art supplies until 11 at night. 

The mobile is double-sided, so there is a different angel and a different Mary on the back.

leader: The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary
all: And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

leader: Behold the handmaid of the Lord
all: be it done unto me according to thy word

leader: And the Word became flesh
all: and dwelt among us

Let us pray. Pour forth, we beseech thee, O God, thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ thy son was made known by the message of an angel, may be brought by his passion and death to the glory of his resurrection, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

On a completely unrelated note, our downstairs is now one, uniform colour. Nobody understands, except the insane woman who has been trying to paint it for seven months, the glow of contentment and serenity that follows a fresh coat of paint. Sometimes I walk into this room just to stare at the wall. (It's Benjamin Moore's Wedgewood Grey, for anyone who's curious. A good neutral.) Kudos to my lovely friend Maggie and her clever mother for all the education.

And as one who has obsessed over paint colour for over two years, I have lots of advice to give! Email me if you want to hear all about the glories of BM paints and how not to be taken in by cheap paint brands, no matter how cute their colour palette. I'll fill you in, you'll be so glad! And no, Benjamin Moore doesn't hire me to write these things. I wish they did. Or at least give me some free paint, because now I have to wait another 7 months to paint the rest of it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


The trouble with sourdough is that it's addictive. It's too easy to make: you mix it up at night, and bake it in the morning. It's chewy, fragrant, crusty, beautiful to look at, full of wild, subtle flavour.

The sourdough starter, I'm sorry to say, was a gift. I have no tips for establishing your own and in fact I've had nothing but bad luck trying to start one from scratch. The one I use now came from California, and has a long and illustrious history. That's my only secret to good sourdough—a good starter.

 Of course, if you stop by, I'll share it with you! Or maybe you'll have success establishing your own, which would be so awesome. Did you know that sourdough starters develop regional flavours? Like beers, they are affected by humidity, atmosphere, the local invisible flora and fauna in the air. The same starter can have totally different flavour in San Francisco than in Alaska.

Anyway, if you can get your hands on a starter, I guarantee you'll be hooked.

Mixing up the bread is crazy simple.

Sourdough Bread
dissolve 1/2 cup sourdough starter in 3 cups water
stir in  
6 cups flour mixed with 3 tsp seasalt
add more flour in scant handfuls 
and knead until smooth and elastic

cover and leave it to rise at room temperature for
12-24 hours

bake uncovered, 350 degrees

place a beaker of water in the oven to moisten atmosphere
(this helps produce the chewy crust)

a few dollops of olive oil
slashing the loaves

chewy, fragrant, and full of holes

Sourdough bread is super stretchy. This picture just doesn't do it justice, even though I was shouting at my son to "rip it slowly" (?) I needed to photograph the chewiness. Nevermind, you'll just have to take my word for it.

What else are we eating?

Pureed vegetable soup that has simmered all afternoon. I always add couple teaspoons of cumin and poultry seasoning. An unlikely combination, but so good! I got it from a split-pea soup recipe and there's no turning back.

I also try to sneak turmeric and garlic into all my soups, to counteract my children's beastly habit of eating off the floor. Turmeric is a vermifuge and anti-parasitic, so here's hoping.

Added to the daily fare is piles of homemade yogurt. I use a fairly primitive method, so there's no point in blogging about it. There are so many methods out there, all better than mine.

And now, feeling smug about all this homemade health food, I'm going confess that I bought my sons sour gummy worms today. We were in the dollar store at lunch time, and the toddler was whining, and we were buying candy for a friend's birthday party, and boys just didn't understand why the world is so unfair, and well, it was a low moment in parenting. I just gave in.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Maple Sap

the maple tree is so bountiful....the smallest nick, and sweet watery sap comes trickling out
Pounding the spile (yes, it has a name! And yes, that's how it's spelled)

duct tape to deter squirrels and curious pedestrians
awaiting the first maple syrup harvest on our urban farm!
Every year in late February and early March, we begin to think about maple syrup. Our one and only maple tree has a permanent gash partway up the trunk which leaks sap onto the sidewalk. The insects love it. Seeing it dripping from the tree, I always think, "What a waste, what a waste!"

This year we decided that no matter how few scant tablespoons of syrup we get, we're going to harvest our sap. After all, it's ours!

We'll see how it goes. It's been such a warm spring, I worried that the sap will spoil before we can pour it off.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Here's a little project for a toddler.

We dyed the wooden spools in food colouring (didn't really take) and kool aid (really took) in a rainbow of spring colours.

Some of them are very old and have great industrial stamping on the side. I love the ones that say "Made in Canada"!

But these are Matthias's toys, not mine.

As the toddler in a large, home schooling family, Matthias is frequently short-changed. I'm trying to be mindful of him and give him new things to do each day (besides cutting up important tax documents with scissors).

That's bread, not beads, that he's stuffing in his mouth.

We gave him a shoe lace with a knot in one end. (Don't mind that he's covered in food. It was lunch time, you know!)

One more thing for a busy baby to do!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


March is an old man,
Old and cold
Grey beard and weary
         - Elsa Beskow

The boys love this picture (from our favourite book about the seasons, Elsa Beskow's Around the Year) because as William said, "Winter is so old, he's almost dead!"

And truly, winter has abated to just a few lumps of ice under the long grass, a few patches of snow under the trees.

For almost a month, they've been asking me, "Will it be spring tomorrow?" It's a difficult concept to explain. Spring comes in little fits and starts, doesn't it? Freezing at night, warm in the morning. A snowstorm here, a pussy-willow there.

The tiniest little lemon-balm leaves! Hello, darlings.

A little mythology helps. (We love silly Mrs. Thaw from Ollie's Ski Trip by Elsa Beskow. I have a feeling that the boys actually believe she exists.)

beds are mulched...

But this year, we really did wake up one morning to find Spring outside! Yesterday it was snowing, today it is robins and tee shirts!

The wind is exquisite.

Boots! Mud!

Babies who nap outside!

Children who roam at large!

searching for junk! I mean treasure!

swinging form trees!

Big plans for sticks and rocks!

There are stirrings in the air and soil. There are stirrings inside my sons: They want to build, to roam, to discover! 

William is constructing a fire pit in the back yard, and we have various exciting garden projects underway! Well, exciting to me. I get really excited about sticks.  

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Maluka Shawl

What the world mostly looks like, these days.

Proof that blocking really works! After being dunked in water and pinned to the couch for a few hours, that big bundle of orange granny knitting was transformed into a pretty, hip, lacy scarf. I officially approve. Though I'm still iffy about the color. I think it's an October scarf not a March scarf.

And I need a shawl pin. I've been using a wooden hair stick, which is every bit as dangerous as it sounds.

The maluka shawl is a lovely free pattern—check it out here.

Friday, March 9, 2012


"March brings breezes loud and shrill
To stir the dancing daffodil"

No daffodil's here to speak of, but the sun is warm and the snow is abating!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Gown for Baby Rafe

I wish I had the kind of camera lens that could capture the look and feel of silk.

Rafe's gown was an old, Chinese table-cloth. I had to cut around a number of embroidered dragons. I like dragons and all, but they didn't seem quite baptismal, somehow.

The handwork is exquisite (the original artist's, that tailoring happened after midnight with crossed eyes and a seam-ripper between my teeth.)

The sheen and drape is beautiful, though by the time I got to the photo-shoot it had gotten rather rumpled. It wasn't intended to be ahem crawled in!

And anyway, Rafe, who said you could start moving around on your tummy? I didn't give you permission to grow! Haven't you been listening to anything I say? I said stay a baby!